Sometimes in baseball, you need to throw away the narratives and just see which way the ball bounces.
In Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, thanks to some help from the Green Monster and some passed balls from Houston, everything bounced in the direction of the Red Sox.
The big difference? A Jackie Bradley Jr. double that careened off the Green Monster and then pinballed its way to the wall between the field and the stands and started rolling like it was on a golf course. It brought home three runs in the third inning and gave the Red Sox a 5-4 lead that would eventually become a 7-5 win.
After a good-enough showing by David Price and a strong night from the Boston bullpen, the series now heads back to Houston knotted 1-1. Just as important as the victory, was Boston overcoming a number of its postseason demons.
Price, the up-and-down $217 million pitcher who was obliterated by the New Yankees in the ALDS, wasn’t half bad Sunday night. Sure, he gave up four runs and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, but he left with a lead and managed his longest postseason start in a Red Sox uniform. He didn’t get a win, but he did leave to cheers from the Fenway Park faithful. It’s probably not the same validation as getting his first career postseason win as a starter would have been, but this was a close second.
“We won. That’s my first team win as a starter,” Price said after the game. “If it’s baby steps, it’s baby steps, but I’m very happy we won.”
Then there was the Red Sox bullpen, which has been just as maligned this postseason as Price. But once Price left, four Boston relievers managed to keep Houston’s normally relentless lineup mostly quiet for next four-plus innings, not allowing another hit or run until the ninth inning, when Craig Kimbrel allowed some traffic on the bases, but ultimately avoided chaos.
Next in the narrative-busting parade: Astros starter Gerrit Cole, one of the best pitchers in the AL in the regular season. He looked as much like Postseason David Price at times as Price himself did. He allowed five runs in this game after not allowing more than four games in any start this season.
For the first time this postseason, the Astros’ offense also felt stifled by an opponent. They were quick to answer the Red Sox early. They tied the game quickly after the Red Sox scored two in the first, then jumped ahead on Marwin González’ two-run homer over the Green Monster in the third. But after that? The Astros didn’t get another hit until the ninth inning.
The other important bounces? Well, those belonged to Astros starter-turned-reliever Lance McCullers Jr., who let in a Red Sox insurance run in the seventh when he walked Mookie Betts, then made his way around the bases thanks to a wild pitch and two passed balls, as McCullers’ breaking ball was too much for Astros catcher Martín Maldonado. That wasn’t the end of the game, but it sure seemed to indicate this wasn’t Houston’s night.
As he did in the ALDS, Boston manager Alex Cora turned to starter Rick Porcello late in this one. Porcello was among their candidates to start Game 3 or 4, as Cora said he wouldn’t announce those plans until after Game 2. But Cora called for him in the eighth. The move to Porcello was a testament to how much the Red Sox needed to avoid going back to Houston down 0-2 against an Astros team whose resilience was on display in their Game 1 win.
Porcello did his job, setting the Astros down in order, including strikeouts to González and Carlos Correa. Then it was on to closer Craig Kimbrel, who gave up one run but didn’t flinch too much and made sure Boston was leaving its home turf with an ALCS win.
There’s no room for error when you’re trying to beat the Astros, as the Red Sox already know. They managed that Sunday night. And, luckily, they got some bounces too.
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